Weight Watching in Retirement

October 28, 2010

As we grow older several factors may affect our weight:

• Metabolism slowing
• Our sex
• Our proportion of muscle to fat
• Activity levels
• Heredity

“Metabolism” refers to the processes by which our bodies convert food into energy used to fuel, build and rebuild our bodies. The food we consume has a certain caloric content and the rate at which we burn that off while engaging in our daily activities reflects our metabolism. Our metabolism tends to slow down about five percent for each ten year period after age 40.

Men on average tend to burn more calories, or have a higher metabolism, than women.

People who have a higher proportion of muscle to fat tend to have a higher metabolism than their chubbier associates. Muscle “burns” more calories than fat (but note that exercise does not turn fat into muscle as some exercise machine purveyors would have you believe).

As people grow older their activities levels tend to decline. If their caloric intake remains the same, more calories are devoted to building fat than to supporting activities.

Heredity grants some lucky people a higher metabolism enabling them to consume higher caloric foods without adding excess pounds. People at the other end of the heredity spectrum seem to put on weight simply by being in the presence of the Fudgy Fudge Cake.

Bottom line: since our metabolism level will tend to decline as a normal aspect of aging, all else being equal, we will put on weight as we grow older unless we consume less or exercise more or both. It is a simple matter of calories in and calories out.

It can thus be beneficial to educate ourselves on the caloric content of the things we consume so we can make informed choices. It is also interesting to note that research seems to indicate that eating more frequently in smaller quantities helps maintain a higher level of metabolism than skipping some meals and then feasting.

And for exercise it is important to do both aerobic and strength building. Aerobic will expend calories but building muscle mass will increase our metabolic rate even while we are resting.

One should eat to live, not live to eat. – Cicero

A balanced diet is a cookie in each hand. – Unknown

R. Kevin Price


© 2008-2010 R.K. Price